Morality is not exclusively deontic. There are, after all, many things that are morally good to do though not required, or morally bad though not forbidden. However, a deontic conception has gotten a grip on the contemporary conception of interpersonal morality, or morality insofar as it has to do with proper relations between persons in virtue of their personality. One presently popular conception of interpersonal morality runs along these lines: Interpersonal morality consists in obligations or duties that are incumbent on all persons; to have a duty is to be accountable to somebody. If I am accountable to somebody, then she has standing or authority to demand my compliance; and to exercise this authority is to be disposed to respond to noncompliance with Strawsonian reactive attitudes and practices expressive of them.
In the last chapter of my book, How We Hope, I identified a common interpersonal attitude that eludes deontic characterization: disappointment in a person, or feeling let down by a person. I proposed that holding people to demands is only one mode of interpersonal relation, and that placing hope in people is another. Demanding involves a disposition to the central Strawsonian reactive attitudes of resentment, indignation, and guilt (and perhaps contempt and shame, which I will come in a bit); placing hope involves a disposition to disappointment (and perhaps some positive interpersonal feelings like gratitude and admiration, which I will also come to later).
My current project aims to characterize this non-deontic mode of interpersonal relation, and also to argue for a moral theory, according to which the value of humanity issues not only a basic demand for respect, but also a basic hope for compassion. Here, I’d like to get your feedback on some ideas I have about the first, conceptual part of the project. I’ll talk through the core elements as I currently conceive them, and then draw some comparisons with Steve Darwall’s work on second personal attitudes “of the heart,” which he posted about on Monday.
Here, then, is a chart summarizing the central elements of what I am calling “instantive” morality, as compared with deontic morality (instans is the Latin room meaning “urgent” or “pressing”).
Authority to hold accountable
Demand that you will phi (or be A)
Resentment, indignation, guilt
Blaming, promising, consent, forgiving, atoning
Heuristic: legislating duties
Standing to pressure
Hope that you will phi (or be A)
Blaming, trusting, forgiving, atoning
Heuristic: establishing expectations
Gratitude, pride, admiration
I think of the deontic and the instantive as specifications of the fact that we have normative standing in relation to each other, in virtue of our personality. This normative standing is manifest in the moral calls, appeals, claims, and demands we can legitimately make of each other.
So, in column A, we find the standing possessed by the parties to deontic and instantive relations, along with a heuristic device for theorizing what it is legitimate to demand of others, or what hopes it is legitimate to place in other. For example, Rawls and Scanlon offer heuristics for theorizing deontic relations; an instantive analog would be imagining what expectations one would want to establish for a community in which one would then become a member. (Note: I’d like to reappropriate the term “expectation,” here, away from the way that Jay Wallace uses it to characterize deontic relations.)
In B, we have characterizations of the deontic and the instantive in terms of speech acts and the grammatical moods used to perform them.
In C, the interpersonal emotions—or “reactive attitudes”—constituting the deontic and instantive.
In D, lists (intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive) of practices we use to renovate the structure of particular deontic and instantive relations. For most interpersonal practices, we don't pre-theoretically distinguish the deontic and instantive versions. When we talk about blaming a person, for example, I think we typically refer to ways of telling people 1) that our demands or hopes have gone unmet and 2) that we demand or hope for uptake of the failure. And when we talk about atonement, we typically refer to efforts to 1) demonstrate uptake of either deontic or instantive reactive attitudes and 2) (re)establish ourselves as able to meet demands or hopes we've previously failed to meet. However, we do distinguish between promising and trusting, which I take to be the deontic and instantive faces of a single, more general practice. This general practice is the exercise of our normative powers to give each other specific standing in relation to us. Practically speaking, particularly in a contract-based community such as our own, it is important to know whether the standing one has been granted is the authority to hold accountable or the standing to pressure — so we have fairly sharply distinguished practices of promising and trusting.
In the comment thread on Steve's Monday post, I remarked that I don't think normative hope is just one of many deontic interpersonal attitudes, but is rather the analog of demand — that is to say, placing hope is the speech act unifying non-deontic interpersonal relations. Steve, reasonably enough, asked me what happens to gratitude in my picture, since it seems both interpersonal and non-deontic. He could pose the same question about love, which he presents as a paradigmatic second-personal attitude of the heart and, I would add, admiration and pride-in-another. So I'll try to stay a bit about each of these.
First, love. As was implicit in my remarks on column D, there are a number of interpersonal engagements appearing in Strawson’s original list of reactive attitudes that I think are better seen as practices than as attitudes or feelings. Resentment and disappointment are relatively unstructured feelings without essential external manifestations; (en)trusting, by contrast, is a structured practice without an essential internal occurrent component. We also conceptualize interpersonal engagements that are entanglements of feelings and practices. There is definitely a feeling of trust, for example, that often arises in contexts of, or in connection with, a disposition to entrust. However, this feeling (I say) isn't essentially interpersonal — we feel it in connection with nonpersons and, most importantly, it doesn't presuppose any normative standing. (Coleen Macnamara argues no feelings presuppose normative standing, but I think it can make sense to say, "Who are you to resent or be disappointed in me?" while it doesn't make sense to challenge a person's feeling of trust, even when one doesn't want the person to feel that way.) I say the same thing about love. Love between life partners — the Strawsonian’s preferred example of love as a reactive attitude — is a complex of practices and relatively unstructured feelings. The practices presuppose the beloved's personality. The feelings, though, are not essentially interpersonal. We have them in connection with nonpersons and they don't presuppose normative standing.
Finally, gratitude, pride-in-another, and admiration. I think there are often practices associated with these, but that they are most essentially unstructured feelings. And I think that, in contrast with feelings of love and trust, these feelings are essentially interpersonal: in particular, they presuppose normative standing — it can make sense to challenge someone "Who are you to feel grateful to me" or "Who are you to be proud of me?" (I do think we feel the feeling of gratitude and pride in nonpersons. Think of feeling grateful to an animal whom has at great risk to itself saved one from danger. This is why the crucial difference between an impersonal and an interpersonal feeling is whether it presupposes normative standing.) I’m inclined to say the gratitude family constitutes the response to hopes met or exceeded. There are analogues in the deontic realm—feelings of satisfaction or affirmation at demands met. Mostly, though, I have to issue a promissory note.
In his earlier work, Steve appears to define second-personal relations in deontic terms. But in the recent work on second-personal attitudes of the heart, he makes it explicit that he doesn’t think deontic relations exhaust the second-personal. It then becomes a question what second-personality consists in, if it is not strictly in accountability authority, reciprocal demands for recognition, and so on. The answer seems to lie in the concepts of answerability and reciprocity. Deontic demands demand an answer, and also recognize the target as having the standing to issue reciprocal demands, too. A second-personal attitude of the heart such as trust, for example, seeks an answer, and also invites reciprocal trust in return.
I have my doubts about reciprocity as an essentially characteristic of this domain. We can trust or love a person while believing ourselves unworthy of trust or love, for example. And I’m not entirely sure what to make of answerability. As I’ve been thinking about things, interpersonal engagements are about relating to each other as reasoners. We stand ready to offer each other reasons — not just carrots and sticks — for acting, believing, and so on. We are prepared to enter into exchanges of reasons with each other. Sincerely interacting with someone as a reasoner is different than being prepared to make use of the fact that we are reasoners. The difference between "making use" and "sincerely interacting" is subtle. It’s also blurry: Consider the way one might engage with someone whom one knows to be moved only by fairly self-interested reasons. In urging a certain policy on this person, one is wise to stick to the self-interested arguments and not to rely on appeals to altruism or spirit of community. If one believes the self-interested arguments are among the good ones, one still relates to this person interpersonally. Perhaps, however, the engagement here is not as fully interpersonal as engagement where one feels free to appeal to all of the reasons one considers relevant to the issue at hand. Nevertheless, there is a difference between deliberating with a friend about what movie to see and running through exactly the same conversation with the intent of manipulating her to see the movie one wants to see—only in the first instance does one relate to her as a reasoner. Moreover, relating to someone as a reasoner also means calling for (demanding or hoping for) "uptake." Perhaps this is what Steve has in mind with "answerability" — if so, his conception of the second personal and my conception of the interpersonal may map the same terrain.
Thanks for reading!